So last night I got back from the Hay Festival – yes, I have finally lost my Hay Festival virginity and I loved it!
We were in the gorgeous south Wales countryside for a week and I spent most of my days at the festival or mooching around Hay-on-Wye. If I wasn’t at the festival I could be found in our holiday cottage reading in the sunshine. I had a lovely chilled and informative week with good friends – my idea of bliss.
At the festival I saw some of my favourite authors including Alison Weir and Jojo Moyes. I saw Ruth Jones, who as well as being an amazing actress and screen writer, has now written her debut novel Never Greener (but that deserves a blog post all of its own so watch out for that). We also saw David Baddiel’s show My Family: Not The Sitcom – which if you haven’t seen it, you must. It is hilarious but so raw and poignant.
However one of the debates that most struck a chord with me was the discussion of the #Vote100Books campaign which marks the significant contributions to literature women have made in the last 100 years; the same 100 years since some women got the vote in the UK (as only women aged 30 and above were granted the vote in 1918).
The Hay Festival teamed up with The Pool to compile the #Vote100Books list, encouraging readers to vote for their favourite books that have inspired them from the last 100 years, all written by women.
I’m not sure whether to be pleased or sad that I have only read 25 books on the list, but I am pleased that some of my all-time favourites are included such as Gone With The Wind, Rebecca, Rachel’s Holiday, The Color Purple, Bridget Jones’s Diary, To Kill A Mockingbird and Homegoing.
Children’s books are also on the list including The Gruffalo (a book I have loved reading to my niece) and The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, which I first read when I was nine years old and loved it. I remember fibbing to my Mum that I needed the toilet when I should have been fast asleep in bed just so I could snatch a few more minutes reading Adrian’s diary in the loo!
The panel, which included Edith Hall, Shazia Mirza, Allison Pearson, Elif Shafak (whose book The Bastard of Istanbul is also on the list), Sharlene Teo and Gabrielle Walker were also really pleased The Diary of Adrian Mole was on the list. They also discussed Wide Sargasso Sea in quite a bit of detail. This was a book that I first read when I was around 17 on the recommendation of my A-Level English teacher, and is the prequel to Jane Austin. The panel felt it was on the #Vote100Books as it makes you feel the emotional injustice of the first Mrs Rochester’s situation.
As well as to mark a century of great writing, the list has been compiled to show that even though it’s a 100 years since women have got the vote, the writing industry reflects the rest of the world when it comes to gender equality with women writers reviewed less, under represented on the academic curriculum, paid less and their books often referred to as chick lit (something I myself have been guilty of in the past) or women’s interest.
During the panel discussion Elif Shafak said that fiction should encourage compassion and that is why these books resonate. I am now going to be very busy reading more of the books listed. However I am also going to take Elif’s advice as she also said we should make our own list and make it as eclectic as possible. Hmmm, many women writers from the last 100 years have left a deep impression on me.
What would be on your list?
Thank you to The Pool and the Hay Festival for the #Vote100Books campaign.